Friday, June 12, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle

During a brief respite from rain, I ran outside to check out my garden. This has been one very rainy and dreary Spring. I'm behind in my yard work, my plants are struggling to grow and bloom and the mosquitoes and gnats are their glory. A five minute foray into the backyard yields many insect bites and a tick or two. The amount of ticks we are finding on us and our pets is alarming especially that we use Frontline. The only good thing is that everything is green!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Meet Miss Binny

Meet Miss Binny! We rescued this sweet bunny three years ago. Someone abandoned her with a disabled woman I was caring for. The woman was going to give Binny to a local animal shelter. My daughter was very upset and insisted we adopt Binny......and so we did :) Life is good for Miss Binny. She is fed lots of fresh veggies and fruits everyday. Her favorites are bananas, radishes, greens and berries. Her least favorite are carrots!! LOL!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

White Layer Cake with Raspberry Jam

Made this scrumptious three layer white cake from scratch for my Mom's birthday last week. I substituted raspberry preserves for the jam. It was delicious and definitely a keeper. Recipe provided below.

White Layer Cake with Raspberry Jam

2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk at room temperature
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar

1 stick unsalted butter,at room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 350'. Butter 3 8-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper, then butter parchment. Spoon a small amount of flour into pans, swirl to coat sides and bottom, then tap out and discard excess flour.

2. Make Cake: Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together milk, egg whites and vanilla in a medium glass measuring cup or bowl.

3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat utter and sugar until well combined and light. Reduce speed to low and add 1/3 of flour mixture. Add 1/2 of milk mixture, beating constantly and scraping down sidea of bowl as necessary. Beat in another 1/3 of flour, the remaininging milk, beating just untl blwnded. Mix in remaining flour just until blended. Divide batter evenly among pans and smooth tops with a rubber spatula (don't worry if batter looks curdled).

4. Bake cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center of each cake comes out clena. Transfer cakes to wire racks; cool in pans for 10 minutes. Run a knife around sides of pans, invert cakes onto wire racks and remove parchment. Let cool completely.

5. Make frosting: Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium-high speed in alarge, deep bowl until ight and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in confectioners sugar in 2 batches until smooth and creamy. Beat in vanilla just until combined.

6. Assemble cake: Using a serrated knife, gently slice horizontally across top of each cake layer tomake level. Place 1 cake layer on serving plate. Spread 1/4 cup jam evenly over layer. Add another cake layer and spread with 1/4 cup jam. Top with final cake layer. Frost top and sides of cake.

Chicken Cacciatore

A few years ago I came across Giada's recipe for chicken cacciatore. Never been a fan of chicken and tomato sauce I was skeptical that I would even like this dish. So glad I was wrong! This recipe is super easy and incredibly tasty. Every time I make this dish it is a huge hit. I've been asked many times for the recipe. To make it a bit healthier I use mostly chicken cutlets and add a few pieces of thighs with the bones and skin.
I had my mom over for her birthday dinner last week and decided to make cacciatore. Took a few pics to show how it looks. It came out super yummy :)

Chicken Cacciatore

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis


  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 2 chicken breasts with skin and backbone, halved crosswise
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves


Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly.

In a large heavy saute pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, saute it in 2 batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces, and 20 minutes for the thighs.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Spoon off any excess fat from atop the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with the basil and serve.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Blue Indigo

My Blue Indigo is just starting to bloom. What's awesome about this plant is that the foliage is very pretty. After blooming it develops these unique pods. Very versatile plant.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Afternoon in the Backyard

1st pic is of a beautiful yellow swallowtail that is enjoying my lilac rhododendron.
2nd pic is of the pond in my backyard.
3rd pic is of the rhododendron again :)
4th pic is of a gorgeous foxglove I picked up at Walmart. Foxgloves are one of my favorite flowers. The Winters are a bit hard on them. Often times they don't come back the next season.
5th pic is another foxglove I bought last year. I was so pleased that it not only came back again but has quite a few flowery stalks. When the stalk is done flowering I trim it and lay it down in the garden in hopes it reseeds itself. My foxgloves usually bloom twice in a season.
6th pic is of the arrowhead plants in my pond. They are beginning to takeover the pond. You can also see lots of lily pads. I cannot wait until they flower. We have waterlilies in white, medium pink and a watermelon color. Hopefully I can get a pic of the frogs sunning on the pads :)
7th and 8th pic is of my water iris. The buds just appeared a few days ago. The flowers are a luscious purple. The dragonflies love this plant!